Quarter life crisis

I know I will have so many complains (wait, no, just a lot of bored readers who will prematurely hit the ‘x’ button for this blog) because yes, I will be ranting about how difficult life is, again, when life doesn’t turn out like the way we have planned. Oh no, wait, I haven’t planned anything.

It’s nearly midnight and I’m sipping my second cold cup of tea (it’s been sitting on my desk for too long), talking to random people, asking them if whether I’m taking the right course, and turning my pen like crazy (which this time fails to calm me down).

I better brew some hot water again, be right back.

Okay, so where were I? The crisis.

I guess after two nights of watching Twilight 1 & 2 and having fun criticising every cheesy bit of the movies with my sister (apologies for Twilight fans out there but here are some examples: Gosh, Edward is so white! Wait, whoa, Bella kisses Jacob? Why is Edward quoting Shakespheare? How can they graduate? They never study! Ehm, the movie is too long, let’s fast-forward it), I still haven’t been able to soothe my distorted mental health.

I have consoled myself (again) for the fact that I might not be good enough for Honours. Yes, I’m not. I know I have said this before, but yes, I might not be. With Honours thrown out of the window (except if some miracles happen and magically I am accepted), I am left with two options: do Master’s, or get a job.

I haven’t been eager to study Master’s straight after my Bachelor’s degree, so IF I do not hear any great calling that I should indeed become a journalist and pursue a degree there, I should have chosen the latter.

A job.

With everyone’s talking about how hard the job market is out there, I’m not convinced that I can actually get a job.

Plus, most of my friends who graduated last year and early this year are still unsuccessful to get an interview.

And what kind of job? Should I try my luck with applying for grad position as with a Psychology major? Should I try to go to magazines and try to get hired? What magazines or newspapers would love to hire me anyway?

I have done a quick market research: most print magazines are not of my interest. Let me rephrase, I can’t name any print magazine that captures my interest. Well yes, I like reading National Geographic, but it’s based in America. I have self-confessed myself as a hater of fashion (and fyi, there are lots and lots and lots of fashion magazines out there, even the non-fashion magazines have some fashion in them). I don’t like sports, photography, nor technology. I hate cars (I only love sitting on the front seat with someone driving on my right – yes, Australians drive on the right), and I can’t cook.

I hate politics. I hate every bit of it. That should make me cross every newspaper on the list, so what do we have left?

Well, my blog, basically. If I can earn from my blog, that would be lovely.

Okay, quit the daydreaming.

I’m not usually a pessimist, but I have not been an optimist either. I still have one year of uni (counting down 21 weeks, actually, excluding the holiday), and I’m already worried of next year instead of living this year because what I’m doing this year will determine how I’ll live my life next year.

Well well, anyone fancies a cup of coffee at this hour?

There’s no doubt that I love writing, I really do. But a little birdie told me (okay, it was an article in Harvard Business News, titled Don’t Do What You Love) that sometimes you don’t need to do what you love, because maybe you’re not good at it. Or maybe you are better at something else. Maybe it’s just a hobby, and it’s not going to turn miraculously into a money making machine (hey, you need to be able to provide for yourself, right?).

Gee, do I really have a quarter life crisis? I know I’m a highly moody person, and by tomorrow I might forget what I write today and sing My Favourite Things song (you know, the soundtrack from The Sound of Music).

Good night, self-pity, I’ll say hi to self-confidence tomorrow (I really hope she’ll come, but if she’s not coming then I need to invite her, it’s a matter of urgency).

Night people, and if you are based in Melbourne, turn off your laptop and get your beauty sleep, it’s nearly 1am.

Get enough sleep, or else... (see those eyebags...) you'll start become an owl. not. good.


Feedback, you’re not my cup of tea either

As a journalist, I’m too used to say, “Feel free to give any comment,” or, “Any feedback is much appreciated!”

Sometimes I really do mean it, sometimes it is just a courtesy. You know, you’re just a rookie, a new kid on the block, why don’t just look nice and put that I-am-eager-to-learn-and-to-become-better attitude up front?

But not everyone likes feedback.

I, for one, hates it.

Of course I love positive feedback. It boosts my ego and my confidence for someone to actually say, “Hey, your writing’s improved, well done, Marcella!” and you feel that you are actually on the right track. Like, what’s the point of keep on learning something if you’re not getting better at it? It’s as simple as that.

But the negative feedback, oh, it’s the worse.

You know, especially when you have put so much effort and energy and you feel like you’ve done a decent job, it sucks.

I know that feedback should be both positive and negative, feedback is there for you to improve, to become better, better, and yet better. But gee, does anyone ever tell you that the process is painful? It may shatter you, it may shatter your dreams, it may make you lose your confidence in what you think you’re good at, and simply put, it’s like someone says to your face, “Wake up girl, you don’t have any talent in this area.”

Of course, the feedback giver doesn’t really want to say that you don’t have any talent (maybe she does), but perhaps she just wants to go that extra step to actually tell you that you’re going the wrong way. Red alert, you need to write better!

So what actually happened?

I submitted a 500 news story draft toward my tutor, who happens to be my lecturer as well, and she gave me the nicest feedback ever.

“I am asking why this will interest me, Marcella.”

“Where is the point of difference?”

Ask yourself why the reader would want to read on.”

I would really like to answer because I wrote it, duh, but it wouldn’t sell either.

So now I know that I’ve written a crappy piece, and I have one week to turn that negative impression of hers to be a positive one. Do I take this challenge? Hell yeah I do, because seriously, do you think I have any other option?

But she also said this, “A writer never apologises for what she’s writing. She just gets better.”

I’m not sure if I’m a ‘woman enough’ to actually take that statement to heart.

And suddenly my iPod plays the soundtrack of Men of Honour, the song Win by Brian McKnight.

So does it mean that I shouldn’t give up?

Well, I can’t really give up now, can I? (After all the rejection letters, the modified stories, the tutor-hates-your-article incident, the hours of editing, editing, and yet more editing, the days spent on reading news, studying Twitter, and textbooks…)

Feedback is not my cup of tea, but maybe I can start with making it my cup of coffee (because literally, I drink green tea everyday, and drink coffee once a week).

And maybe one day, I can see feedback not as a red card to kick me out of the game, but as a ladder to help me climb up to where I’m supposed to be.

A chat with failure: yes, I have a very low coping mechanism

An entry written on early Friday morning, from 4am to 5am, on bed, using my faithful mobile phone.

Lying awake at 3.58am makes me realise something that I have always known since years ago, yet I’ve failed to be aware of it. I have a very low coping mechanism.

In Psychology, the great Professor William James, one of the Einsteins of social science created this principle: humans will always experience failure, yet if you want to feel better about yourself, guess what? Lower your expectation. Shift your expectation location mentally.

Nearly my whole life I do that. I’m lowering my expectation because I’m afraid of the amount of disappointment and hurt that I will get if I fail.

In my early high school years, I believe that many of my peers hated me. I was always a good student, in terms of getting good grades. Yet I failed to get good grades occasionally, and my coping mechanism kicked in. “I don’t want to feel the disappointment. I don’t want to fail.” So I did what I knew best: I lowered my expectation.

Yet I was not proud of it. Why? Because it was a devastating blow for some of my friends. I lowered my expectation by answering that I didn’t put much effort into my studies, and I actually really meant it because I felt like I never finished studying for a subject. Yet compared to some of them, I received good grades with not much studying while they studied much harder than me, but they were unable to get good grades.

Psychology believes that humans will always be striving to fulfill their own goals, and along the way there will be some successes and failures. So the great Professor Higgins come up with the regulatory focus theory. Basically, it’s telling us that there are two types of how people cope with success and failures: by promotion focus or prevention focus.

Most Westerners are promotion-focus – they are striving for a goal in a sense of attaining a positive outcome (i.e. I want to get good grades in my exams, I’ll study hard). While most Asians, including me, we are the prevention focus – we are striving for a goal in a sense of preventing negative outcome (i.e. I don’t want to fail in the test, so I study hard). Promotion focus people are the ones who take risk, and make changes in the world. They experience happiness greater, but if they fall, they fall further as well. Prevention focus people, we are the ones who want to maintain our current state, while improving little by little. We are scared of moving towards the unknown future, scared of falling down, so we are not dare enough to take the risk – we can’t imagine the possibility of falling even further than this.

Promotion focus people take it hard if they aren’t able to do something positive. Prevention focus people take it hard if they are making mistakes.

The first time I got 40/100 for my test, I cried and called my sister. I was in year 12.

I consoled myself by saying that, “It’s the hardest subject in high school, it has the same level as the one in university,” but it still poisoned my mind day and night. I found out later that 40 was actually one of the best scores in class, but I have taken the fall hard enough – it haunted me for weeks. It was Mathematics Extension 2 subject, in the test about complex number. It’s funny to see how you are still able to remember these small details.

And what would you do to make yourself feel good then? Reciting the success that we have done. Don’t we all do that? This self-enhancing method exists in Psychology, it’s human science.

And despite having gone through failures countless times, I still have not developed resistance towards failure. I can’t be the Thomas Alpha Edison who tried a thousand times to make a light bulb work. I am not Walt Disney who makes people’s dreams come true. I’m just a girl trying to live my life, preventing any failures whatsoever and trying to walk very slowly towards my desired state of self.

The fact that I’m still unable to sleep at 4.30am and writing about this instead shows how bad I am in dealing with stress.

My assignments were returned, and the results were not that good. This is kinda ironic because I’m the writer who talks about “How important are grades to you” towards the other extreme. I’m not saying they are bad, they are just not as good as I expected. Coping mechanism #1 ala Professor James kicked in: you did not put much effort anyway so it’s alright, do better next time. But my heart whispered, “You have spent weeks of researching, drafting, editing, and doing your best to make sure you’d get a decent grade, but why wouldn’t you?” And again my brain tried to fight back: I did my best; the only thing that I can do are to do better next time, and not to make the same mistake. Yet my little heart whispered again, “What if your best isn’t good enough?”

I went to work and I was placed outside my comfort zone. “This is not my place. I don’t have any control here.” I felt so tired, and kept on making mistakes (now that I think of it, I only made several mistakes, but this is the live demonstration on how prevention focus people had a devastating blow after doing mistakes). I even said to myself, “Maybe you don’t have any talents working there, it’s just a waste of time and energy.” Whoaa, wait a minute girl, your treacherous mind is playing with your soul!

The take home message, if any, is studying more Psychology (joke, joke), will be knowing your own coping mechanism level and try to make it stronger. I have never experienced fatal failures or negative situations of any kind (except for those with normal childhood): no poverty, no sickness, no death of a loved person, no bullying, nor even peer pressure. In some sense, it makes me weak. Failures are necessary in order to move ahead, I know. But if someone invented a shortcut to success without failure I would gladly take it. Too bad there’s none, and I’m still determined to be successful.

So failure, next time you knock on my door, let’s go inside and have a cup of tea while chatting about how you like to poison humans’ minds.